What Exactly Do We Mean by “Happiness”?

Inside Leadership

What Exactly Do We Mean by “Happiness”?

Bendy childrens toys in primary colors with cartoony smiling faces

We have been talking a lot about “happiness” in Jewish education lately. Let’s begin by owning that the term “happiness” is challenging. In our vernacular it has a shallow and trivial connotation. As Toni Morrison, speaking to college graduates, said: “I urge you, please don’t settle for happiness. It’s not good enough.”

When we talk about “happiness” as a new thrust for Jewish education, as suggested by Dr. David Bryfman and Dr. Scott Aaron, what are we actually talking about? The scientific field of Positive Psychology uses the term “authentic happiness” or “flourishing” for the very reason I shared above. Different than a superficial and fleeting happiness, flourishing is defined by Fredrickson & Losada in American Psychologist as living “within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience.” This isn’t a shallow happiness – it is a deep and connected awareness not only of ourselves but of everyone around us.

Prior to the field of Positive Psychology and studies around growth mindset, scientist believed that either you were a positive, optimistic and happy person, or you were not. However, with these new studies, psychologists now believe that the ability to flourish is not only something innate from birth but that we can actually be taught to flourish.

Keep reading at eJewishPhilanthropy.com.

Have something to say about this post? Join the conversation in The Tent, the social network for congregational leaders of the Reform Movement. You can also tweet us or tell us how you feel on Facebook.

Michelle Shapiro Abraham, MAJE, RJE, is the Union for Reform Judaism’s director of learning and innovation for youth and a consultant for the Foundation for Jewish Camp.  A longtime Jewish educator, author, and speaker, she holds a master’s degree in Jewish education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.  Michelle is a recipient of the 2015 Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education and an active member of Temple Sholom in Scotch Plains, NJ, where her husband, Joel Abraham, serves as the rabbi.

Find More in The Tent

Learn more about this exciting new platform, where Reform congregational leaders connect with colleagues and peers who have similar concerns, interests and responsibilities.